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Assistant FM voices China's further commitment to agricultural cooperation with African nations
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China will continue to develop bilateral and multilateral agricultural cooperation with African countries and boost the "South-South cooperation" within the framework of "Special Program for Food Security (SPFS)," Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said Thursday.

In an interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the 13th Africa Union (AU) Summit currently underway in Libya's seaside city of Sirte, Zhai said the agricultural cooperation between China and Africa constitutes an important part of bilateral cooperation.

Since the Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms in agriculture are increasingly being perfected, with agricultural technology exchange and cooperation taking various forms, he said.

The measures promised by China in assisting African countries are being smoothly implemented, and economic and trade cooperation and investment in agriculture witness sustainable development, said the senior Chinese official.

"China has signed agreements or memoranda of understanding on agricultural and fishery cooperation with over 10 African countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa," Zhai said, adding that the Sino-African trade volume in agricultural products has reached 2.07 billion U.S. dollars, up 33.76 percent on a year- on-year basis.

China also developed fishery cooperation with 11 African nations such as Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Morocco, which has provided thousands of jobs for the local people, he added.

"In the future, China will continue to develop bilateral and multilateral cooperation with African nations in agriculture and further bolster "South-South Cooperation" within the framework of the SPFS set up by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)," he promised.

In the next five years, China will increase to 30 the Chinese- aided agricultural technology demonstration centers in developing countries, send 1,000 more agricultural experts and technicians aboard, provide 3,000 training opportunities for developing countries, he said.

Moreover, China will donate 30 million U.S. dollars to the FAO to set up a trust fund in a bid to help developing countries improve agricultural production capacity and increase exports and assistance to countries facing food shortage, Zhai said, noting that African countries will be the biggest beneficiary of these initiatives.

He said China would focus on the specific circumstances of African countries to promote bilateral exchange and cooperation in agriculture, agricultural vocational education, help African countries to establish agricultural technology popularization system, and guide reputable Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa.

"The year 2009 marks an important year in the development of Sino-African relations," the assistant Chinese foreign minister said.

"In February, Chinese President Hu Jintao paid state visits to Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius, which further consolidated the China-Africa traditional friendship and deepened mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides," he said.

During his visits to the four African countries, the Chinese president has conveyed an important message on behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese people -- under the current situation in the international financial crisis, China is willing to work with African countries to support each other and tide over the difficulties, Zhai noted.

He said this year is the last year to implement the outcomes of the Beijing Summit, noting until now the follow-up actions to implement President Hu's eight-point policy package on practical cooperation with Africa have made significant progress.

The fourth ministerial meeting of the Sino-African Cooperation Forum will be held in Egypt in the fourth quarter of this year to comprehensively review the Beijing Summit and to draw a new blueprint for Sino-African cooperation in various areas in the next three years.

"China will work hard to implement its assistance commitment to African countries and will also actively study and bring up new aid measures," said Zhai.

In 2008, China-Africa trade volume reached 106.8 billion U.S. dollars, up 45.1 percent year on year, according to official statistics.

The pan-Africa grouping AU kicked off its 13th summit in Sirte on Wednesday, with investing in agriculture for economic growth and food security and regional peace high on the agenda.

(Xinhua News Agency July 2, 2009)

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